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Jamaican ad
campaign urges an end to AIDS stigma

Jamaican ad
campaign urges an end to AIDS stigma

Jamaica has started an advertising campaign to stop discrimination against HIV-positive people, a problem that human rights activists warn is undermining efforts to stop the spread of the virus. Radio, television, newspapers, and billboards will carry messages against discrimination, said Faith Hamer, a health ministry official. One message on posters to be plastered throughout the island reads, "When you're HIV-positive, you don't need negative vibes."

The messages are "geared at informing the work force about how to treat these people and that they should not be dismissed," Hamer said.

The campaign, partly funded by a $23 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, comes two weeks after Jamaica's parliament set up a committee to explore ways to end discrimination against gays and HIV/AIDS patients. The health ministry also is creating a database to track discrimination in schools and clinics.

In a report last year, New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized public health care for HIV-positive people, saying many often receive poor or no treatment because of the stigma surrounding the disease. The report also said gays endure pervasive hostility in almost all levels of Jamaican society, from the police to popular reggae music. The virus is widely seen as a gay disease in Jamaica despite data showing most infections come from heterosexual contact.

Some 22,000 of the island's 2.7 million people are HIV-positive. So far this year, 244 new cases have been reported, and 170 people have died, the health ministry said. (AP)

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